Marxist theories on crime control focus on law and criminal justice in their explanation of crime in the society. However, they base their arguments on the economic status of the society, which they assert is divided into two including the bourgeoisie who are owners of the means of production and the proletariat who provide labour to the means of production. The proletariats also do not possess anything and as the bourgeoisie expect more returns from their capital, the proletariat expects more wages. Cowling (2008, p. 117) noted that since the bourgeoisie has economic power, they end up controlling also the political power, which they use to manipulate the proletariat. Thus, five things abound regarding how the Marxist criminologists see crime control and these include the foundation of criminal law, the continuous domination of the ruling class, enforcement of the law, motivation on an individual basis and, lastly, crime and control. There are two main Marxist theorists on crime, namely, Thornsten Sellin and Willem Adriaan Bonger.
This paper provides a Marxists criminologists’ perspective regarding crime control.
Siegel (2011, p. 168) indicates that the Marxists criminologists question the foundation of criminal law because they consider criminal law as reflecting the ruling class welfare. This is because those who have and control the means production which is formed by the ruling class, usually make criminal law. Thus, according to Marxists criminologists, the poor in society are not embodied because they lack the means to influence the criminal law.
Secondly, the Marxist criminologists consider law creation and the dominant hegemony. Hagan (2010, p. 156) points out that in societies that are capitalistic in nature, the ruling class usually forces their values on the population. In addition, Hagan (2010) asserts that this propaganda is channelled through a variety of agencies such as the mass media, education and religion. Research intimates that the values that are forced on the people end up becoming laws and the population accepts the laws believing that it is what they advocate for, but in reality it reflects the wishes and values of the ruling class. Marxists criminologist term this as “hegemony”.
The Marxist criminologists – a problem with the enforcement of the law
According to the Marxists criminologists, the laws that are set by the ruling class somewhat reflect the interests of the working class, and this the Marxists criminologist argue that functions well with the legal system. However, they note that the problem arises when it comes to the enforcement, and the interpretation of the law as this is done in favor of the ruling class. McLaughlin & Muncie (2006, p. 178) asserts that this is done through manipulation, to ensure that the ruling class receives freedom while the working class remains in their initial position or end up being incarcerated.
Marxists criminologists see crime in terms of motivation
They explain that people are motivated to commit crime individually. According to Smith & Natalier (2005) Willem Bonger advanced that greed, competition and selfishness were the main basis of capitalism. The three bases of capitalism were blamed on people’s attitudes, which aided in perpetuating capitalism. Thus, Sumner (2004) summarises that crime is motivated individually and it reflects the outcome of people’s values. The values referred promoted self preservation, which promote crime, in turn. However, it is also indicated that the poor are also motivated to crime because of their squalor conditions.
The issue of crime and control has also being observed at length by Marxists criminologists. Walsh & Hemmens (2010, p. 196) indicate that Marxists advance that in a system operating under capitalism, the ruling class tends to make the masses unaware of the exact problem within the society, which is capitalism. The Marxists add that capitalism is the main problem because it promotes the poor situation of the masses. The diversion of attention from the real problem is usually done using institutions such as the media, education system and religion. Besides diversion of attention, these institutions reinforce the idea. Thus, in this case, crime features as an instrument of diverting attention from the main evil in society, which is capitalism as police are crowded in work vicinities, to search the working class and arrest those that rebel against capitalism.
A closer look at the individual theorists indicates that Thorsten Sellin incorporated legal, social, historical, and psychological factors in his analysis. According to Akers & Sellers (2004) he asserted that in a society that is homogenous in nature codes of behavior usually emerge and end up becoming laws, which are enforced, in turn. This is done for the purposes of protecting the unitary culture that exists within the homogenous society. On the other hand, in case there is a diversion from the mainstream by separate cultures results in formation of rules by these minority cultures. Thus, there will be divergent socialization due to the presence of the minority and the majority. In turn, this causes conflict because when the laws are enforced will definitely reflect the values, norms and interests of the group that is dominant. Thorsten also intimates that there might be a power sharing and accomodation if the two groups are equal, but if one group seems more powerful than the other, this indicates a continuous conflicting between the two groups.
On the other hand, Willem Adriaan Bonger advanced for a link amongst social conditions, crime and the economy. He asserted that culture was a normalcy in society, but selfishness emerged after the introduction of barter trade. Lastly, he views the emergence of capitalism as the result of avarice and selfishness, which promoted the assertion of egoistic impulses that resulted in crime. Thus, this motivates the poor to commit a crime because of injustice and those with power punish and exercise control with the intent of equating harm and threat caused to the interests of the ruling class.
Marxists criminologists consider the economic nature of the society as the main cause of crime. This is explained by the fact that the society has classes, which are the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. These two classes are at a conflict because the former group possesses the means of production and seeks for more profit, while the latter group provides labor and seeks for increased wages. The bourgeoisie are at an advantage because they have the means of production and at the same time they possess power. This prompted the Marxists criminologists to view crime under five categories including the foundation of criminal law, continuous domination of the ruling class, enforcement of the law, motivation to commit a crime on an individual basis and crime control. These five subtopics can be summed that the bourgeosie who form the ruling class make laws that reflect their own interest, and these laws are forced on the population through various agencies such as the education system, religion and the media. The laws can somewhat match the interests of the population, but a problem emerges regarding enforcement of the laws as the ruling class is set free through manipulation of the law. Commission of crime according to the Marxists criminologists happens on an individual basis. Crime and control also featured and it was indicated that in a capitalistic system crime is used to make the masses unaware of the real problem, which is capitalism. Marxists criminologists base their argument significantly on the social set up in terms of classes.